Garden Route, Eastern Cape brace for dry spell as Cape dams continue to rise

The Garden Route and western part of the Eastern Cape are heading into a dry spell as forecasts show this coastal region is likely to get below normal rainfall during the usually wet spring.

The average dam level in the Western Cape crept up from 16% at the end of April to just over 50% on Monday, and the average level of dams supplying Cape Town rose marginally to 56.4%.

But the bad news is that the Garden Route – which suffered a crippling drought in 2017 and devastating runaway fires – is likely to get below average rainfall in September, October and November.

Cobus Olivier of the South African Weather Service said on Monday the seasonal forecast for the Garden Route and the western coastal strip of the Eastern Cape was "a cause for concern".

"This coastal area usually gets rainfall all year, but tends to have two peaks, one in autumn – March, April and May – and another in spring – September, October and November. Our seasonal forecast for the spring peak unfortunately shows the area could get below average rainfall. 

"That is a concern, because the area has also been drought-stricken," Olivier said.

Low confidence forecasts for parts of Western Cape

However, the northern part of the Western Cape was forecast to get above average rainfall during August, September and October.

Olivier said the seasonal forecasts for both these areas were of "marginal confidence".

"That means they are not as good as the seasonal forecasts for the north-east part of the country, which is 85% accurate, but also not something that you would throw out of the window."

The seasonal forecasts for Cape Town and the western part of the province for the rest of winter were "not looking that good". However, Olivier said long-term forecasts for the western part of the Western Cape were of such low confidence, they meant very little.

"Cape Town and the western part of the province get most of their rainfall now in winter, but we can give no indication of whether the rest of the winter will have above or below average rainfall because the skills level of the forecasts for this area is so low," Olivier said.

Anton Bredell, Western Cape MEC for local government, environmental affairs and development planning, said on Monday while the winter rains had provided much needed relief in the drought-stricken province, it was too soon to ease up on water restrictions.

Missing targets

"We are breathing slightly easier, but we must make it clear that we are not out of the woods yet. We are heading to a summer season where demand will increase again rapidly. In addition, the situation in the Gouritz River catchment area remains serious," Bredell said.

Theewaterskloof Dam was 41.2% full on Monday, compared with 20.9% in 2017; Voelvlei 57% full (22% last year); Bergriver Dam 86% full (38% last year); Clanwilliam 98% full (25% last year).

Cape Town's water consumption rose from 494 million litres a day last Monday to 530 million litres this Monday.

The target of 450 million litres a day has never been reached since Level 6B water restrictions were introduced on February 1, but Capetonians have managed to go below 500 million litres a day three times: 492 million litres a day on May 7, 481 million litres a day on July 2 and 494 million litres a day on July 16.

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